Flashback: JULY 1940

For the first time in eight years Queensland claimed ‘the Australian Rugby League Football Title’ from New South Wales with a 23-15 win over the Blues at the Gabba, to clinch the series 3-1.

NSW made a real fight of it after being thrashed 45-8 the previous week, but were still no match for the Maroons, much to the delight of the crowd of 9,000.

‘The Courier-Mail’ reported that there were many ruthless exchanges, but “it was a sporting game”.

“The control of referee, Mr Merv Taylor was admirable and after the game he was congratulated by both teams,” the ‘Courier’ reported.

Queensland halfback, Leslie Ridgewell showed great courage, playing for 60 minutes with a shoulder injury, despite pleas from ambulance officers for him to retire from the game.

Len Dawson and Alex McLean scored two tries each for Qld, while forwards, Jack Ryrie and Jack Little were magnificent in the rucks. Little set up Dawson’s second try, the last of the match, with a strong mid-field surge.

NSW hooker, Bert Gilbert shaded Little 34-32 in the scrums. You read correctly. There were 66 scrums.

After the match there were scenes of great joy in the Queensland dressing rooms, as The Courier-Mail reported.

“Veterans who have followed the game for 30 years, crowded the rooms and congratulated players from each team for providing a rugby league game that, for a display of great stamina and courage, will go down as one of the classics.

“The game was fought more fiercely than many international matches.”

A debutant for NSW was winger, Athol ‘blue streak’ Stewart, whose father, Charles, a prominent dairy farmer from Bombala on the NSW South Coast, flew from Bombala to Bega, then from Bega to Sydney and finally from Sydney to Brisbane, to see his son play. That was quite a trip in those days, with football teams generally travelling by train for inter-state games. Athol Stewart played for Newtown in Sydney before returning to Bombala as captain-coach.

At a time when it was considered almost compulsory to have a beer after a game, it is interesting to note that three members of the NSW side – Hart, McAndrew and Quealey – were teetotallers, preferring to drink milk.

Charles Stewart would have been pleased.


Len Dawson (left in second row) sits beside Bill Laing and trainer Bill Doherty. In the front row are Leslie Ridgewell and Jasper Feeney along with manager, Jack Rofe.


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